Study Guide

Skyfall Silva (Javier Bardem)

Silva (Javier Bardem)

Not-So-Sterling Silva

In the classic viral video "Shoes," Kelly storms out of her house after declaring to her parents, "I'm going to get what I want." Skyfall is the story of someone just like Kelly—determined to get his way at any cost.

Okay, Silva isn't nearly as greedy and crazy as Kelly, even though they do have similar hairstyles, but he is driven by selfishness, according to Severine:

SEVERINE: He wanted the island, so he took it.

BOND: Does he always get what he wants?

SEVERINE: More than you know.

We don't know why Silva is so greedy, but we do know what he wants: to kill M. He feels betrayed by her sacrifice of him. He takes that personally, even though she did it—in her opinion—for the good of the country. Silva just can't let it go: he wants M dead, and he goes to insane lengths to get to her dead, stealing a top secret list of government identities, exposing agents, crashing an entire subway train into James Bond—the list goes on and on (and on).

Silva explains his Moonraker-like focus here:

SILVA: They left the island so quickly, they couldn't decide what to take, what to leave, what was important. And seeing this every day reminds me to focus on the essentials. There's nothing...nothing superfluous in my life. When a thing is redundant, it is eliminated.

He sounds like a hippie living off the land and off the grid—which he is, in a way. But instead of focusing on peace, Silva is focused on causing chaos.

It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Wrong

We worked our way through Silva's twisted feelings about M in her character profile, so here let's talk about his twisted feelings toward Bond.

Silva feels an odd kinship with Bond, revealed here in this long speech about rats and coconuts:

SILVA: Hello, James. Welcome. Do you like the island? My grandmother had an island. Nothing to boast of. You could walk around it in an hour. But still, it was, it was a paradise for us. One summer, we went for a visit and discovered the place had been infested with rats. They'd come on a fishing boat and gorged themselves on coconut. So how do you get rats off an island? Hmm? My grandmother showed me. We buried an oil drum and hinged the lid, then we wired coconut to the lid as bait. And the rats would come for the coconut and plink plink plink plink plink plink they would fall into the drum. And after a month, you have trapped all the rats. But what do you do then? Throw the drum into the ocean? Burn it? No. You just leave it. And they begin to get hungry. And one by one [gnawing noise] they start eating each other until there are only two left. The two survivors. And then what? Do you kill them? No. You take them and release them into the trees. But now they don't eat coconut anymore. Now they only eat rat. You have changed their nature. The two survivors, this is what she made us.

That is Silva's introduction speech, done in one lingering two-minute take, and it defines his character. How's that for a lov-er-ly bunch of coconuts?

Let's break it down. Silva sees himself and Bond as brothers competing for their mother's love. M's love. Silva is jealous of Bond because Bond is closer to M, but at the same time, he wants to use Bond to destroy M. He also wants to turn Bond against her, but Bond will never do that; he knows that to turn against M would be to turn against his country. Silva, on the other hand, only pledges allegiance to the United States of Silva.

It would be kind of Oedipal if Silva didn't seem so attracted to Bond. Just listen to this exchange (which isn't complete without the image of Silva unbuttoning Bond's shirt):

SILVA: See what she's done to you.

BOND: Well, she never tied me to a chair.

SILVA: Her loss. [caresses Bond's chest]

BOND: Are you sure this is about M?

SILVA: It's about her. And you, and me. You see, we are the last two rats. We can either eat each other...Mmm. Or eat everyone else. How you're trying to remember your training now. What's the regulation to cover this? Well, first time for everything. Yes?

BOND: What makes you think this is my first time?

SILVA: Oh, Mr. Bond! All that physical stuff, so dull, so dull. Chasing spies...so old-fashioned! Your knees must be killing you.

Silva could be doing this to get a rise out of Bond, pretending to seduce a man known as a womanizer in order to rile him up and get him to let his guard down. But Bond, stone cold and cool, isn't ruffled. Silva continues acting out to shake Bond, for example when he quips, "Let's see who ends up on top."

Now there's a line rife with sexual innuendo.

And at the end, Silva enters the battle of Skyfall in a helicopter blaring rock tunes. He's cocky, brazen, and flamboyant, but we have no idea why he is this way. Maybe as a child he was told he had too many shoes?

But here is where Silva finally learns that for all his bluster, it really is James Bond who ends up on top. Womp womp. Evil just doesn't pay in the Bond universe.

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